The Difference between Passion and Drive

My friend Lisa is a professional musician. She practices and performs more than 60 hours a week, all for very little money. She is a very intelligent person who could probably have a much more secure job, but in her own words she “loves what she does.”

I have another friend, Maggie, who is a corporate attorney. Like Lisa, Maggie works long hours in the office. She doesn’t particularly enjoy her work (although she is very good at it), and she is rewarded with a large paycheck every two weeks. When I asked her why she decided to be a lawyer, she answered that “it was the safe thing to do.”

What is interesting to me is that both my friends are motivated to work hard and excel at their careers, yet their sources of motivation stem from two completely different forces: passion and drive.

A lot of people confuse passion with drive. After all, they both seem to accomplish the same end result – the motivation to succeed. But there is a key difference, described by Randy Komisar in his classic book “The Monk and the Riddle.”

Passion and Drive are not the same at all. Passion pulls you towards something you can’t resist. Drive pushes you towards something you feel compelled or obligated to do. If you know nothing about yourself, you can’t tell the difference.”

Well said, Randy. Passion is addictive; it flows through us naturally and pulls us towards something that we desire. Lisa’s passion was the joy of creating music. Everything else – the lifestyle, the performances, the long hours, was driven by this singular passion.

Drive is different – it is about outside expectations. Perhaps society wants you to do something (like go to graduate school or take a secure job). Maggie doesn’t particularly like her career as an attorney, but the stability and respect she commands from her friends and family is a tremendous motivation.

Is passion better than drive? I think so, for one simple reason: your memories. Passions tend to evoke positive memories and experiences – things that you actually want to remember, as opposed to the things you did because you felt you had to. When you look back on things, you’ll have fewer regrets.

So take a moment to define your passions. What is that pull that you can’t resist?

6 Responses to “The Difference between Passion and Drive”

  1. Steven H says:

    I honestly never thought about this distinction until now, but it makes a lot of sense! Drive seems more externally motivated, while passion is more internally motivated. Both however have a sense of purpose, it just depends on what we value out of life (security or freedom, or some mixture in between).

    Good article! Please check out my blog too and try to leave a reply.

  2. Black Zen says:

    Hey Vik, this is a great post and something that I’m frequently doing a “check and correct” on. Just yesterday I wrote a post about something that I think is quite closely related: the difference between settling and settling down. Would be really cool if you had a read and let me know what you think. Nice work.

  3. Subhash Tantry says:

    Nice article Vik!
    The phrase "Driven by passion" comes to mind. There are famous artists and businessmen who do an superb job of synthesizing internal and external motivators – people like Ravi Shankar and Steve Jobs. Such people seem to achieve extraordinary successes and contribute a lot to their professions and society at large.
    The questions are:  Are there methods that allows for such synthesis to happen? Can one train oneself on them? It would be wonderful to have a whole lot more people to achieve this synthesis. 

  4. Corey says:

    interesting, had some thoughts …
    sounds quite similar to the differences between internal and external motivation in psychology.
    but i think the stability/sercurity motivation is not necessarily external, as in resulting from social pressures.  some people just care a lot more about material security, or they're more risk-averse and want to earn money as a hedge against something going wrong.  or they have expensive tastes/hobbies, and view their job as a means to support their passion, but not as the passion itself. 
    a positive/negative dichotomy might be more accurate: passion is about doing or feeling something, while drive is more about avoiding something, whether it be poverty or a sense of failure or social rejection or whatever.

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